“Just being on the pitch with him was special”
John Barnes said it was “special” to play against Diego Maradona… despite the Argentina legend knocking England out of the 1986 World Cup.
The ex-Three Lions star came on as a second-half substitute in the quarter-final clash against the South American nation.
Barnes had an instant impact just seven minutes after coming on with Gary Lineker turning his cross to bring home a goal for Bobby Robson’s side.
But the 1966 champions failed to equalize as Maradona’s brace proved to be the difference, with Argentina winning the world tournament.
Maradona opened the scoring in the 51st minute with his infamous ‘Hand of God’ goal after knocking the ball past the rushing Peter Shilton.
The second, which came moments later, remains one of the greatest goals ever scored as he dribbled past five players before shoving the ball into an empty net.
And Barnes revealed what an honor it was to share the same pitch as the late Maradona, who died aged 60 in 2020.
Speaking exclusively to talkSPORT on behalf of bet365, Barnes said: “It was special to be on the pitch with Diego Maradona.
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“He’s one of my favorite players of all time. And he’s fantastic, he’s iconic.
“So even though I came on for the last 15 minutes, just being on the pitch with him was special.
“But of course, as a young boy growing up in Jamaica, it’s no different for me than any young boy growing up in England, Sierra Leone or Paraguay.
“We love the World Cup. And you want to play in a World Cup. Fortunately, I was able to do it.
“But it wouldn’t be different for me than even for Diego Maradona as a young boy growing up and thinking he could play in the World Cup or watch them play in the World Cup because it’s such an iconic moment. and special.
“And that rarely replaces anything, even in terms of where it’s going to be.”
There were fears the World Cup in Qatar might not be up to snuff, but Barnes insisted it would be a “fantastic tournament”.
He remarked: “The fact that it is in Qatar means as much as if it were in England in 1966, Argentina in 1978 or Spain in 1982.
“I remember when it went to one of the so-called non-fancy places, for example in South Africa, when they thought ‘how is it going to be in South Africa, it should be in a European country or south -American’, and it was a fantastic World Cup.
“As was the case in Korea and Japan. So, I have no fear that it will be a fantastic tournament, because anyway, it is the World Cup.
“And what that engenders in people once the games start is that it’s the greatest players in the world and the greatest teams in the world, playing on a football pitch, wherever it is.”
Argentina haven’t won the World Cup since 1986, with Lionel Scaloni’s side heading to Qatar as one of the favorites after going 36 games unbeaten.
And Barnes backed skipper Lionel Messi to win the Golden Boot ahead of Harry Kane and Kylian Mbappe in what could be the 35-year-old’s last World Cup.
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